About the lecture

Dangerous Liaisons: The Story of Viruses and Cancer


Prof. Alan Rickinson


7 September 2022 (Wednesday)


4:00 p.m. GMT+8 (Hong Kong Time)


Online via Zoom
(The webinar details will only be provided to registrants)



Common sense tells us that viruses and cancer are polar opposites of one another. Viruses are tiny replication machines that can multiply exponentially within the cells of our bodies, often killing those cells in the process and thereby causing disease; take Covid 19 as the most recent example. By contrast, cancer arises when rare cells within the body acquire genetic changes and themselves become large replication machines, multiplying out of control with life-threatening effects. Clearly two such opposite forces, one leading to cell death, the other to cell growth, should never meet … and yet, they do!

This is the story of those “dangerous liaisons” whereby particular viruses, often widespread in the human population, are causally linked to particular types of cancer. Numerically the impact of these liaisons is huge, with some 10-15% of all cancer cases arising worldwide being a virus-related cancer. What are those viruses, how do they contribute to the development of cancer, and what can we do about it? These are the questions that will be addressed, taking as a prime example the first human cancer virus to be discovered, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a fascinating agent now linked to several human tumours, particularly Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC), which has special importance to Hong Kong.



Prof. Alan Rickinson is Emeritus Professor of Cancer Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. He was trained in Cambridge and Sydney before returning to UK to join the laboratory of Sir Anthony Epstein, the discoverer of the Epstein-Barr virus, EBV. Thereafter, since moving to establish his own research team in Birmingham, Alan has led a multi-disciplinary programme studying the biology and immunology of EBV infection, the role played by the virus in different human cancers, and the development of immunotherapies targeting those diseases. His work is widely recognised and, among other honours, he is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society, the UK Academy of Science.


Maisie Chow
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